Plans for Nechako Corners, a supermarket/shopping centre and residential development southeast of the Foothills Boulevard-North Nechako Road intersection on the western outskirts of the city’s bowl area are still going ahead but it could be quite some time before construction begins.
Brink Properties Inc.,president John Brink said that with inflation still out of control and Canada facing a possible recession, there’s no great rush to begin building the project, knowing the market for residential and commercial property investors has cooled as interest rates continue to climb.
On Wednesday the Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate by a half a percentage point, the sixth consecutive rate hike this year. In March, the central bank rate was .25 per cent and it now sits at 3.75 per cent. The five-year fixed mortgage rate for major Canadian banks currently ranges from 5.37 per cent to 6.14 per cent.
“It’s usually a question of money, so if you go to the bankers and they’re starting to push up interest rates to eight or 10 per cent that changes the whole viability of the project,” said Brink. “Bankers even now are already becoming very twitchy about all things and the government in the general sense is making lending much more difficult, especially for the average individual getting a house. That will affect the surrounding subdivisions that are being built and, therefore, the viability of the project.”
Brink says he likes to see signs of stability, not volatility, in the economy before he begins any major project. With inflation reaching 6.9 per cent in September, prices up 11.4 per cent and fuel 18 per cent more expensive than it was last year, there’s no telling when Canada’s economy will recover.
“I like to be in a stable area when we start a project, or moving towards it,” said Brink.
Nechako Corners is a $30 million project which will include multi-family dwellings as well as single-family homes. The upscale shopping centre planned for the area would be connected to a 30,000 square-foot supermarket and will include medium-density residential space on the upper floors of those buildings.
The larger buildings will incorporate cross-laminated timber (CLT) load-bearing panels and beams.
Brink Forest Products is planning to add a mass-timber component that will manufacture CLT products at its mill on River Road. A mass timber complex would double the value-added wood products the company now produces in Prince George, Vanderhoof and Fort St. James.
“It’s kind of a whole new approach to building, using cross-laminated timber and then having multi-family homes above it, so it makes it very unique project, but it’s a delicate one and an expensive one,” said Brink.
Project designers have yet to secure a commitment from a grocery chain willing to commit to a franchise at that location but Brink is confident that will happen.
“We have no worries about it, we likely will develop it ourselves and own most of the building,” he said. “But we know there will be no problem attracting occupancy for the commercial segment. We haven’t talked to anybody in particular but we know there will be a lot of interest because it’s a perfect location.”
There are no other retail businesses within a six-kilometre radius of the site which leaves area residents underserved, and Brink says they will benefit from having a grocery story and other services nearby.
City council, at its Oct. 18 meeting, approved the Nechako Corners zoning changes required and the company expects to complete its final design plan over the next few months.
Brink Properties has already finished the Nechako View housing development in the area and is now building the Nechako Terrace neighbourhood, part of the North Nechako Plan approved by council in 2019.
The final phase of the 10-acre development would be a residential component which would extend south to the Nechako Rivers Greenway adjacent to Nechako Riverside Park. The subdivision, which would include single-family homes and medium-density strata housing, would be built beyond the outfield fences of Nechako Ball Park and would border Edgewood Elementary School, separated by a greenbelt.
“Obviously, everything is kind of in the dumpers right now but we hope to do something in 2024, subject to if we get a recession,” said Brink. “Zoning always takes a long time, you can’t hurry it, and we’ve got that now. So we’ll have a much better idea what it will look like in 2023 and we will have it in place by 2024.”